- Clothing and accessories can be considered organic when they are made from fibers produced without the use of synthetic chemicals, such as conventional pesticides; without fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; and without bioengineering or ionizing radiation. Organic fashion emphasizes the use of renewable resources to conserve soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. In the United States, organic products originate from certified farms and production plants that meet the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) organic standards. Organic farming focuses on ecology, soil science, crop diversity, decoy crops, beneficial bugs, increased human labor, and renewable fertilizers. Farming organically is more labor intensive because of higher labor, management, and certification costs. It is widely believed that reducing chemicals prevents serious and ultimately more costly, long-term problems for the environment and human health. Ground-water pollution, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and human health problems (mainly cancers and asthmas) caused by chemical residues are serious effects of conventional agriculture. The increased cost of organic farming creates a struggle for many farmers in the global economy since they can't compete with countries that can produce crops cheaper; however, organic farming has helped some farmers carve out a niche market. Although developing countries can produce goods for less, fair trade practices are a major concern. Organic agriculture was the only option for farmers until the twentieth century. Synthetic chemicals, developed for farming in the 1920s, were not widely used until after World War II when farmers learned to increase productivity through mechanization and homog-enization of farming. "Factory farms" developed and used synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and mass-rearing techniques to increase yield without more land. This resulted in a lack of crop diversity, diminished the soil (when crops aren't rotated), and allowed pests to flourish.During this agricultural industrial revolution, pioneers of the organic movement called for a return to traditional methods. Prior to 2002, no consistent definition of organic existed. Effective October 2002, certified organic refers to produce/livestock from farms, ensured by a third-party certifier, that complies with National Organic Standards set by the USDA. To qualify, farmers must abstain from using prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fumigants, and sewage sludge) for three years prior to certification and then continually thereafter. They are prohibited from using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and irradiation. They must employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management, and crop-rotation practices.In the case of livestock, they must provide outdoor access and pasture for livestock, refrain from antibiotic and hormone use, and sustain animals on organic feed. The use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering is prohibited, as is the use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures). In addition, organic livestock management for fibers includes a regulation that animals cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice. Farmers must also meet specific requirements for labeling and record-keeping. Organic wool must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production. Livestock feed, from the last third of gestation, must be certified organic and natural carrying capacity on grazing land cannot be exceeded. In 2005, 19,152 pounds (8,705 kilos) of organic wool were grown in the United States and Canada. New Mexico is the second-largest producer with 15,200 pounds, then comes Montana (2,400 lb.), Maine (520 lb.), Colorado (300 lb.), Vermont (200 lb.), New Jersey (132 lb.), and Ontario, Canada (300 lb.). The organic wool industry is very small relative to the overall wool industry and does not have the economies of scale.Cotton provides about half of all global fiber needs. The six biggest producers of cotton are the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. However, cotton is produced in more than sixty countries and represents an essential component of foreign ex- change earnings for more than fifty of them. Cotton is an important source of income for millions of small farmers and contributes significantly to the national economy of many developing countries. The cotton-growing land areas of conventionally grown (using pesticides) have not changed much since the 1930s but average yields have increased threefold through the intensive use of synthetic chemicals, irrigation, and the use of higher-yielding plant varieties. Conventional cotton is very prone to insect attacks and large quantities of the most toxic insecticides are used in its production. According to the Pesticide Action Network of the United Kingdom and the Organic Trade Association (OTA), organic cotton farming is on the rise with Turkey and the United States as the leading producers, followed by India, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Senegal, Israel, Greece, Benin, and Brazil. Based on OTA's 2005 survey of U.S. organic cotton producers, funded by Cotton Incorporated, farmers in four states harvested 6,814 bales (3,270,720 pounds) of organic cotton from 5,550 acres during 2004. This is an increase from the 4,628 bales harvested from 4,060 acres in 2003. Texas continues to lead the United States in organic cotton production, with limited acreage also planted in California, New Mexico, and Missouri. Other fibers that are organically farmed are hemp, soybean, corn, and bamboo.One of the first manufacturers to promote the use of organic cotton was California-based Espirit de Corps in the early 1980s. Patagonia joined the cause in 1992, along with Nike in 1998 and Eileen Fisher in 2001. The organic movement, which started out as a grassroots movement, is now attracting companies worldwide including Coop Schweiz (Switzerland), EDUN (England), and Otto and Hess Natur (Germany).See also Sustainable design.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.
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